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Covert medication in children: an extrapolation from adult practice
  1. Robert Wheeler
  1. Paediatric Surgery, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Robert Wheeler, Paediatric Surgery, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK; robert.wheeler{at}

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Parents smuggle antipyretics into their feverish infants. At the other end of this continuum, the clandestine administration of any drug to a competent or capacitous person who is oblivious to such treatment, whose consent is absent, is unlawful. It is not a battery, since no touch was involved … but it is a serious interference with an individual’s right to respect for their private life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights 1948 (ECHR).

While it is simple for a capable person to object, on discovery, that their rights have been trampled upon … the incompetent or incapacitated may have no such remedy. It was, in part, to give that group of citizens a voice through a legal right, that the Convention was established.

There are remarkably few reported common law decisions relating to covert medication in England and Wales; none concerning children. Guidance published by both the National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence, and the Care Quality Commission relates to covert medication in incapacitated adults. Both organisations point towards the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA 2005) Code of Practice.1 Neither body refers directly to children. But the Court of Protection does provide guidance on principles that should be followed, and we may extrapolate these to children under 16.

In AG,2 the court was dealing with a 92-year-old woman in a residential home whose care plan involved the covert administration of medications. She lacked the …

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  • Contributors I am the sole contributor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.